Hey, It's That Guy!

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Hey, I've seen that guy with the striped shirt somewhere before...
"Hi! I'm Troy McClure. You Might Remember Me From such films as The Boatjacking of Supership 79 and Hydro, the Man With the Hydraulic Arms."
Troy McClure, The Simpsons

There is a certain class of actor who you may rarely notice but often see. They appear in various works, filling their roles faithfully but when you notice them individually, you remember seeing them before but never where it was and you can never say their name but are forced to just exclaim "Hey, It's That Guy!"

For instance, if a middle-aged character actor gets a good rep—there is nothing like personal connections in a crowded, cut-throat business like the Hollywood acting pool—he can appear in numerous movies and TV shows each year. Ronny Cox is a good example among actors always available as white male authority figures, Lou Gossett as black male establishment types of any social class, Mako in any middle-aged male role requiring an Asian (er... while he lived, anyway), and Tim Curry as any evil, bearded bloke who dies in the end.

They never get the lead but that's often best for them. That means that nobody ever blames them if a movie bombs and they never become unaffordable. It means that they'll never grab the headlines or grab your attention but they'll grab the paycheck at the end of the day.

Another excellent category for this trope is dwarfs: there are only so many good, trained adult actors just over three feet tall and even fewer with the connections to constantly get speaking parts. Most long time movie and television fans will recognize a half-dozen familiar faces on small bodies: Billy Barty, who played these roles from the 1930s to the 1990s (180 entries just in the IMDB, beginning at age five!), Billy Curtis (High Plains Drifter), Warwick Davis (Willow, the Leprechaun and Harry Potter films, and Prince Caspian), Peter Dinklage (also Prince Caspian, Elf, Game of Thrones) the great Michael Dunn (Ship of Fools and The Wild Wild West), and Danny Woodburn (Mickey Abbott on Seinfeld, Big Figure in the Watchmen movie).

If you're watching Law and Order or other Clueless Mystery, it might result in Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize.

Voice actors in Animated Shows, as well as live action voice dubs for foreign-language shows, have the similar syndrome Hey, It's That Voice!.

American stunt performers, particularly ones that belong to minority groups, tend to keep popping up in a variety of different TV shows and movies. James Lew, Al Leong and Jeff Imada are just three examples that spring quickly to mind. They often play Evil Minions but may sometimes be upgraded to The Dragon or even the Big Bad.

Young Canadian actors, particularly if they're Toronto-based, have this happen so much it gets its' own trope, because teens more than any other group show that there are Only So Many Canadian Actors.

If you can't quite remember which show the actor was in, it can result in much time spent on IMDB, trying to narrow down where else the viewer has seen that actor. If you get stuck, try You Know That Guy—someone might help you.

Compare Actor Allusion, You Look Familiar, You Might Remember Me From, Hey, It's That Voice! and Plays Great Ethnics. Inverse of Retroactive Recognition. Parent trope of What the Hell, Casting Agency?. When you just can't shake off the image of the older roles, it's Role Association.

Hey It's That Guy!, now in convenient book form

Examples of Hey, It's That Guy! include:


  • The ultimate Asian "That Guy" surely has to be Al Leong. If you see an Asian-looking Mook with a bald head, long hair, and long moustaches anywhere in a Hollywood action film, it was Al. Not many guys in Hollywood can attest to a screen resume as diverse as stealing chocolates in Die Hard, playing Genghis freakin' Khan in Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure, and torturing Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. He's that invisible they hired him again as a nameless mook in Lethal Weapon 4 and nobody noticed.
    • James Hong as well. If you've seen an American production with more than two Chinese characters, you've seen him (usually as some kind of authority figure, often, though not always, a villainous one).
    • Another honorable mention: Clyde Kusatsu. Frequently cast as a doctor or judge but can show up just about anywhere. Holds the distinction of having played bit parts on both versions of Hawaii Five-O.
  • John C. McGinley. Probably more nominatively recognizable now due to his long leading exposure in Scrubs, outside of his definitively angry Dr. Cox, the curly haired McGinley spent his time as a number of creepy and/or smarmy characters with little audience sympathy. If you've seen a famous Oliver Stone movie, you've probably seen him.
    • Sgt. "Nose Up Tom Berenger's Ass" O'Neill in Platoon
    • Marvin (that friend of Sheen's from work who is kind of funny but is also annoying) in Wall Street. The thick framed glasses can delay the Retroactive Recognition.
    • Random guy pushing wheel chair in Born On the Fourth of July (presumably he failed to respond to Stone's Christmas card that year)
    • The slimey Corrupt Corporate Executive from Highlander II the Quickening.
    • The over official and overbearing Agent Ben Harp ("young dum and full of cum") from Point Break.
    • The henchman from On Deadly Ground who keeps Tempting Fate by saying things like "He'd have to be out of his fucking mind to try to get into this place now".
    • The Marine Captain from The Rock
    • The completely nuts corporate assassin who kills with no qualms because he fears the lack of fear of death in the 2000 adaptation of the novel Sole Survivor.
    • Jack Rose from Any Given Sunday.
    • Another bad guy henchman (and yes also an annoying dweeb) in Get Carter (2000).
    • In Se7en he plays California, the captain of the SWAT team that discovers the sloth victim.
    • He plays against type in Identity as the meeky George York.
    • He's one of the Bobs in Office Space.
    • The main villain in Nothing to Lose.
    • Edgler Vess in the TV adaptation of Dean Koontz's novel Intensity.
  • Tony Shalhoub- is Lebanese but has probably been used for everything except Chinese. A good actor for The Everyman and the slightly quirky. Not actually knowing his name probably decreased a lot after his started on Monk.
    • Ben Geisler in Barton Fink.
    • The neurotic Antonio Scarpacci in Wings
    • The head regenerating pawn shop owner, Jeebs in Men in Black
    • German, the guy who introduced Vincent and Jerome in Gattaca
    • Russian Misha Vilyenkov in Paulie (if you need a man who can convincingly be enraptured by a parrot telling stories, you need Tony Shaloub)
    • Frank Haddad (lebanese) in The Siege
    • Minion in Spy Kids (the Hand Headed Tribe of New Zealand)
    • He is also the Deadly Shadow Guy from The X-Files episode 'Soft Light'
    • Fred Kwang in Galaxy Quest. Technically saying everything except Chinese wasn't true but here it was to make a point.
    • Unnamed sailor in a bar singing Macho Man with Debbie Jellinsky-Addams in Addams Family Values.
  • Stephen Tobolowsky: Ned! Bill Murray punched him in Groundhog Day and all the characters surrounding his in other movies have wanted to too. This bulbous nosed actor has been:
  • Chi McBride: A sharply dressed, sharp mouthed, black business man who acts as a realism/cynical counterpart to our hero. No Exceptions (except when he isn't). (He also had a leading role in Boston Public as the Principal).
  • John Glover. He is the reason we have the Magnificent Bastard trope. It was named for him. Not his character. Him, John Glover. Think about that.
    • Lionel Luthor, Magnificent Bastard extraordinaire, in Smallville
    • Lucifer in Brimstone
    • The technically good but certainly unheroic and magnificent at being so, CEO of Clamp Corporate Network, Daniel Clamp in Gremlins 2.
    • The above being a salesman at heart, see also the Magnavolt Salesman in Robocop2.
    • Sylar's dad Samson Gray in Heroes.
    • Voiced Rasputin in the Animaniacs episode Nothing but the Tooth.
    • Voiced The Riddler in The New Batman Adventures and Superman.
  • Ronny Cox was actually first highly noticeable in Deliverance where he was the one character to hold to civilized morality and who represented the destruction of the concept of civilized moral man when exposed to true wilderness but in everything else he's just a dick. Often a dick in a suit. If not a dick, then definitely a suit, a Reasonable Authority Figure even.
    • Dick (they weren't even being subtle about it) Jones the head Corrupt Corporate Executive of RoboCop.
    • Vilos Cohaagen, the Big Bad from Total Recall.
    • The American President in Captain America (1990 film).
    • Captain Jellico, the guy who took command of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation and who managed to piss everyone off to the point Riker almost didn't do his job while still being right about nearly everything.
    • Treasonous Senator Kinsey in Stargate SG-1.
    • On the more reasonable authority figure side of things, he was the LA police captain in Beverly Hills Cop. This is a movie in which he gets us to buy into an LA cop telling a black man that he won't tolerate police brutality.
    • He was also the President Plot Device in Murder At 1600
    • He had a very brief non-speaking role as the CEO of the funding corporation in Deep Blue Sea.
    • Not a dick but the protagonist in The Beast Within.
    • A heartless hospital administrator in St. Elsewhere. The one who gets mooned by Donald Westphal.
    • Commander of the State National Guard in the movie Taps, where a bunch of students take over their military academy and hold it hostage. He might have to use force to get the students to give up their revolution, except for one problem: the ringleader (Timothy Hutton) is his son.
    • An irate older Jerkass alias the Tooth Fairy serial killer on Dexter.
  • Udo Kier, AKA What would happen if Christopher Walken and Tim Curry moved to Germany and had a baby. His iceberg blue eyes may make you suspect he is a vampire. His cult cred ensures that he will be cast often, if only in a cameo role.
    • He was in fact Dracula in cult film Andy Warhol's Dracula
    • Ron Camp, pet shark owner, in Ace Ventura.
    • Ralfi the boss with female, possible transgendered, bodyguards in the film of Johnny Mnemonic.
    • The vampire lord Dragonetti in Blade
    • The head priest in End of Days
    • He played Albin Grau, artist, architect and occultist, and the producer and production designer for Nosferatu in Shadow of the Vampire.
    • He's also very close to Lars Von Tier and has appeared in several of his films such as Dogsville and Manderlay.
    • He was in the Werewolf Women of the SS trailer in Grindhouse.
    • He was also Yuri in the Command & Conquer series of games.
    • Professor Pericles, the creepy Lecter-esque talking animal mascot of the original Mystery Inc in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
    • He was also the creepy doctor in Korn's music video for Make Me Bad (along with Brigitte Nielsen)
    • He was a creepy psychiatrist in Armageddon. "Just let it out." Bear cries
    • Dr Krieger in Uwe Boll's Far Cry.
    • Upper-class vampire Vincent in Casper van Dien vehicle Modern Vampires (released in some countries as Revenant).
  • Alice Ghostley certainly counts, as resident Cloud Cuckoolander in many TV shows of the 70s and 80s, most notably Bernice in Designing Women.
  • Jane Lynch is now the sourest thing in the Glee candy box but before that she was providing the tall thin blonde factor as:
    • The deadpan child psychologist in Two and A Half Men.
    • Spencer Reid's mentally ill mother in Criminal Minds
    • Joyce Wischnia in The L Word
    • Gail the Television Reporter in Walk Hard.
    • Ellen the estate seller on one of the last episodes of Friends.
    • Potential Friend with Benefits, Boss Paula in The 40-Year-Old Virgin
    • The Realtor who terrifies Aunt Josephine on Series of Unfortunate Events
    • George Sr's jailhouse love interest and FBI informant in Arrested Development
    • Sam's mom in iCarly. (tall and thin?)
      • While YMMV parents aren't always the same height and build as their kids. She does a great Job as Pam Pucket due her ability to play raunchy females in some of her past roles, such as Paula, who is a near-expy for Pam. However, other than her hair color and behavior, Pam and Sam do not bear any striking resemblances. Besides maybe how they both look in tight jeans.
    • Dr. Richard Kimble's friend in "The Fugitive".
    • Christy Cummings, lesbian dog handler, eventual lover and business partner of Sherri Ann Cabot in Best in Show.
    • Constance Carmell, an aspiring actress who's chased the dream a little too long, on Party Down.
    • Gayle Sweeney, the head of the Sturdy Wings program in Role Models. You know what she had for breakfast? COCAINE.
    • Laurie Bohner, she of the questionable past in A Mighty Wind.
    • Sister of Julie Child in Julie and Julia.
    • Richie Campbell's gym teacher on The New Adventures of Old Christine.
  • Holland Taylor. As she says of most of her characters: "I'm just cutting a swath of bitchiness through the world!"
  • There are only a handful of stage actors who do musical theater in Hungary. If they're doing a musical that features a brooding, dark character, a young male lead, a slightly wacky sidekick guy (or an Ax Crazy), a stern and mature woman, and an innocent heroine, it's safe to say that they'll be played by Szilveszter Szabo, Attila Dolhai, Zoltan Bereckzy, Kata Janza and Dora Szinetar, respectively. Szilveszter Szabo is an interesting case, as he also has a way of inheriting roles created in German by the very-different-in-both-acting-and-vocals Uwe Kroger (Colloredo in Mozart!, Der Tod in Elisabeth, and [it's been suggested many times] Maxim de Winter in Rebecca).
  • R. Lee Ermey is the face of Drill Sergeant Nasty. He's probably most of the examples too, having been an actual USMC drill instructor, that include the Real Life section. If not a marine drill sergeant then he's a police officer, warden guard or just some major league asshole shouting in your face. If he isn't playing that role in the movie you're watching an actor who was was at least thinking of him.
    • Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann from the film Full Metal Jacket
    • His first role as a DI was The Boys in Company C.
    • He also played the ghost of a similar character in Peter Jackson's The Frighteners, and was also the voice actor for the commander of a troop of plastic soldiers in Toy Story.
    • He also did X Men the Last Stand as a voice of such a sergeant.
    • The old sheriff Pike who set the pair up in Life.
    • The evil Sheriff Hoyt, part of the murderous family, with a fondness for garters, in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
    • House's (Marine Colonel) father in House.
    • The Janitor's father in Scrubs
    • He was a presenter for the History Channel series Mail Call, where he would describe the history of military warfare, while being a Drill Sergeant Nasty.
    • A drill sergeant turned therapist in a Geico TV commercial, voicing the same in a series of radio commercials.
      • And in an ad for pistachios, where he berates a pistachio so vehemently that the shell cracks.
    • Sergeant Major Bougus, the Marine DI who whips the fledgling Marine Space Aviators of the 58th Squadron ("Wildcards") into shape in the pilot of Space: Above and Beyond.
    • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Marshall Brisco County Sr., infamous father of bounty hunter Brisco County Jr., whose death is the starting point of the show.
    • One of the helicopter pilots in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now.
    • A voiceover role as a prison warden in an episode of (of all things) SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • Titus Welliver is another career "that guy". "That not very nice guy that scares me a little".
    • He's spent time in Jericho,
    • Terrorized the cast of Star Trek: Voyager,
    • Offered advice to a future king in Kings
    • Tried very hard to kill his brother in Lost - and that's when he wasn't turning into a terrifying cloud of black smoke.
    • Sold his soul to a government conspiracy in Prison Break
    • He's an FBI agent tracking the robbers in The Town.
    • Menaced a small California town in Sons of Anarchy
    • Worked for the notorious-yet-honorable Al Swearengen in Deadwood
    • And, in a revelation that surprised no one based on his past history, turned out to be a Horseman of the Apocalypse in Supernatural, alongside his twin Lucifer (also played by Mark Pellegrino).
    • Also guest-starred on one of the more disturbing episodes of "Law and Order Special Victims Unit": he played a man who impregnated his own teenage daughter (with someone else's sperm, not his own) because "if there are no children, the family dies." He had previously taken in a boarder and tried to convince her to carry a baby for them, and when she refused, he murdered and dismembered her.
    • He appeared in an early episode of The X-Files as an eco-terrorist.
    • He was the rival states attorney Glenn Childs on The Good Wife
  • Lennie James. Yet another career "that guy" with some sage, though street, savvy advice.
    • He was the taxi driver who lost his son in The Prisoner remake.
    • A taxi driver (again) 'over there' in Fringe.
    • Jericho trying to restore the United States to its former glory in Jericho.
    • Was a protective dad trying to build a life for his son in The Walking Dead
    • The streetwise, advise giving, pimp in Hung.
    • Fast-talking Sol in Snatch.
    • Terry Marsh in Lie to Me where he gets Dr. Lightman involved with gambling mobster-types
  • Mark Sheppard is an Evil Brit character actor with that evil being served up in douchebag flavour, taking the roles of villains that tend to hit above a TV series' par for intellect and meanness (and possibly other qualities).
    • He was the recurring serial killer ghost in Medium
    • The Badger with a very fine hat in Firefly
    • The lawyer whose only friend was his cat, Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica
    • The leader of three bank robbers in (the meaner, more held together one) in Burn Notice.
    • The central Asian separatist Ivan Erwich who lead another hostage situation in 24.
    • The obstructive FBI agent who doesn't believe in the dollhouse in Dollhouse.
    • The Ring Director (so effectively the Big Bad of season 3) of Chuck
    • The Bond forger in the first episode of White Collar (The OTHER bond forger.)
    • The anti-Ford insurance investigator Jim Sterling in Leverage
    • The chief crossroads demon, Crowley, in Supernatural
    • The ex-FBI who, while not villainous, plays along as one for a time, and has less qualms with guns than the Doctor does, in Doctor Who.
    • The Regent Benedict Valda in Warehouse 13—not evil, but still a Jerkass.
    • A dubious fashion photographer in CSI.
    • A pyrokinetic butler/serial killer in the first season of The X-Files
  • Robert Davi brings the atmosphere of a Latino James Bond villain, mostly because he's Italian and a Bond villain. The cold, dangerous type also plays into a certain kind of mentorish roles.
    • He was the villain in the Dalton-era Licence to Kill.
    • The singing thief Fratelli in The Goonies.
    • One of the two agents Johnson (the one who had been to Vietnam) in Die Hard.
    • On that occasional good guy note, he was the FBI profiler Malone on Profiler
    • Er... a harder character to make out but he was kind of a mentor figure also in Showgirls albeit one whose sagest words were "It must be weird, not having anybody cum on you."
    • Commander Acastus Kolya of the Genii on Stargate Atlantis.
  • A Canadian example is George Buza, who since the 70's has been the northern industry's go-to actor when it needs a big scary bearded white guy.
  • Another Canadian who's the "go to" Native actor is Graham Greene. His long list of appearances in film, television and stage include Kicking Bird in Dances With Wolves; Leonard in Northern Exposure; Joe Lambert in Die Hard with a Vengeance; Peter Yellowbear in Snow Dogs; Calvin Many Goats in Transamerica; Harry Clearwater in Twilight: New Moon, etc. He also played Lenny in the Stratford Festival's adaptation of Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men.
  • Brian Thompson, the go-to-guy for big beefy dudes with really scary voices who love to ham it up. Often works under heavy makeup. Among his roles:
    • The alien bounty hunters from X Files
    • Shao Kahn from Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
    • About a thousand roles as aliens in the various incarnations of Star Trek, including two different Klingons
    • Cronus and War in Charmed
    • The Judge and vampire lieutenant Luke in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
      • Played Eddie, leader of the Bruja in 'Kindred: The Embraced' (TV show based on White Wolf's 'Vampire: The Masqurade').
    • He and Bill Paxton were the first victims of The Terminator.
  • Matt Frewer is a great choice when you need someone whose face is suited for either a good guy or villain who happens to have sparkling intelligence yet still be quirky, slightly odd or Affably Evil. Notable roles include:

Hatter: Okay, he's mad as a box of frogs.

  • Margo Martindale is usually the go-to person when a movie needs a motherly type or older woman character.
    • Dewey's mother in Walk Hard
    • The person who helped run Scott Glenn's horse stable in Secretariat
    • The American tourist in Paris je t'aime
    • Melanie Lynskey's lawyer in Win Win
    • A rival attorney in the pilot of Harry's Law
  • Clifton Collins Jr. (also credited as Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez) is often considered when a movie needs a Hispanic character, a villain or a timid but likeable supporting role.
    • Tack in The Stoned Age
    • Niño, the youngest prisoner in Fortress
    • The main villain in 187
    • Perry Smith in Capote
    • The one-armed model enthusiast who runs the cleaning supply store in Sunshine Cleaning
    • Step in Extract
    • Romeo in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day
    • Tobey Maguire's superior officer in Brothers
    • One-half of the Vegan Police in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • A Progressive Insurance Commercial does a literal Shout-Out to this trope in a "Flo The Progressive Girl" commercial. Flo and a customer break into an "80s Montage", and in the middle of it, Booger from 'Revenge of the Nerds appears, and the music actually sings, "Hey, it's that guy!"
  • Need a loud but good-hearted (Jewish, Greek or Italian) mother-type? Lainie Kazan is the one to go to.
  • Armand Assante is Hollywood's "foreign" guy with over 100 credits in film and TV, mostly playing villains or the Magnificent Bastard. Of these, he's played South American dictators at least a dozen times. Some of his most famous roles:
  • You plan on casting a villain in a crime thriller? Never fear, Peter Greene is here!
  • Megan Hilty, one of the more famous actresses to play Glinda in Wicked
    • Will be voicing the China Doll Princess in the upcoming Dorothy of Oz.
    • One of the hopefuls to play Marilyn Monroe on Smash.
  • Stephen Bauer. Practically the go-to guy for playing either authority figures (on both sides of the law) or shady criminals. Has more than 140 film and television credits to his name. His roles include:
    • Manolo 'Manny' Ribera in Scarface (his Star-Making Role)
    • Detective Sigliano in Running Scared
    • Prosecutor Michael Santana in the final season of Wiseguy
    • Joey Pinero in Primal Fear
    • Carlos Ayala in Traffic
    • Don Eladio in the fourth season of Breaking Bad
  • Iain Glen is a classically-trained British actor who has performed in dozens of plays, films and television shows, often as noble or high-ranking characters. His roles include:
    • Brendan in Gorillas in The Mist
    • Hamlet in the 1990 film adaptation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
    • Edward Foster in The Young Americans
    • Newspaper publisher Stuart Morrison in the miniseries Glasgow Kiss
    • Manfred Powell in Tomb Raider
    • Dr. Isaacs in Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction
    • Richard Coeur de Lion in Kingdom of Heaven
    • Otto Frank in the Diary of Anne Frank television miniseries
    • Father Octavian in the Doctor Who two-parter "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone"
    • Vaughan Edwards in Spooks
    • Sir Richard Carlisle in Downton Abbey
    • Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones